Government has accused the National House of Chiefs of disregarding the Constitution to indulge in politics following the House’s declaration of a NO vote in the national referendum scheduled for December 17 this year, ABC News can report.
According to government, the trajectory of events leading to the stance taken by the highest body that unites all traditional rulers, suggests their move was politically motivated.
The National House of Chiefs in a statement signed and issued last Thursday by its President and Vice, Togbe Afede XIV and Daasebre Nana Kwebu Ewusi VII, respectively, urged Ghanaians to vote NO in the imminent referendum which seeks to amend Article 55(3) of the Constitution to allow political parties to partake in local level elections.
Despite the stance of the President and Vice on behalf of the House, some members have distanced themselves from the position taken on the basis that it doesn’t reflect the collective position as their views were not sought before the release was issued.
“We strongly object to the proposal that membership of local assemblies should exclusively comprise representatives of political parties, as in the case of Parliament,” the statement said.
Their statement came shortly after the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) organised a press conference to make a sudden U-turn on their support for the referendum.
Speaking in an interview with Citi FM, Tuesday, the Minister for Local Governance and Rural Development, Hajia Alima Mahama, accusing the House of playing in politics and termed their move as “unfortunate”.
The Member of Parliament for the Nalerigu/Gambaga expressed shock and disappointment in the National House of Chiefs for bypassing government to embark on a NO vote campaign despite the engagements they have had on the issue.
According to her, the House expressed no reservations about the Referendum in their meetings with government and therefore finds it challenging to understand why the chiefs would sidestep government to canvass for a NO vote.
“I think it is unfortunate. For me, for a person of the standing of the National House of Chiefs, in a matter like that, he could have gone to talk to the President to advise, he could have called me Minister for Local government and I will go to his office for advice. I don’t think it was the best mode to come out with that…
“…because when it comes to these matters as the constitution provides they are not to play politics. But if you look at the background that NDC had just come out with a press conference and said there should be a NO vote, and within two or three days this came out, it will look like you are towing a certain line,” she said.
The Minister explained that the concerns of the chiefs all along have been on how to intensify their role as traditional leaders in the local governance system as their relevance at that level was gradually eroding.
“We had a discussion and they raised some concerns; their concerns were not NO. They did not say to political party participation; that wasn’t the interest. They indicated that chiefs have always played a role in local governance and we think our role is not quite strong, not that effective.
“Let’s think about how we can amplify the role of chiefs in local governance systems. They asked questions to explain further what the whole process was and it was explained,” she noted.
“…They finally told the team that we will ask our legal committee to look at it and down our observation and they did.
“…we are grateful that they gave a substantive report and they also indicated they needed for us to work together to develop some guidelines to enhance the participation chiefs; that was what they said. There was no indication in their letter they object totally to election of MMDCEs on partisan basis,” she emphasised.